Africa, a history to rediscover. 3- The Dogons of Mali: An extraordinary people

03.07.2018 - Valentin Mufila

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Africa, a history to rediscover. 3- The Dogons of Mali: An extraordinary people
(Image by BluesyPete)

Who are the Dogons? Where do they come from? We do not have much information on them, but they were certainly linked with the first peoples who settled in Egypt. Then in the 13th century, during the time of the Mali Empire, they descended to West Africa where the family of Emperor Sundiata Keita seemed to have protected them. After the fall of the empire in the fourteenth century, they fled to the Bandiagara cliff where they partly merged with a population of pygmy hunters called the Tellem.

According to some sources, the Dogons have lived in that area for over seven centuries. According to their legends, they believe they come from the star Sirius to whom they attributed the existence of a twin star, called Potolo, which is impossible to see with the naked eye and that modern science did not discover until 1862. There is also a third star called Emenya Tolo, and all three stars have the names of grains. The Dogons describe the Milky Way as a spiral galaxy made up of millions of stars, studied from a Stonehenge-like stone observatory.

The Dogons have a secret language, known only to members, and have many parties, one of which is a party of the Dame with masks in the shape of lizards, snakes and leopards and dancing. Every sixty years they celebrate the festival of Sigi, which is dedicated to fertility and life.

The villages are organized by a leader, the Gina, and problems and conflicts are resolved peacefully. There are no crimes, theft or suicides to be found. The Toguna is the most important public building, and a foreigner who does not know where to stay may sleep there. Unfortunately, modernity is causing younger people in particular to abandon traditions, risking the loss of an ancient identity.

Translation from Italian by Liane Arter

Categories: Africa, Culture and Media, Indigenous peoples, Opinions
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